Garbett’s conference identity design ‘makes’ itself

Australian design studio Garbett (formerly NaughtyFish) has recently completed the identity design and branding of the 2014 National Architecture Conference. Refined but playful, the work is centred on the idea and activity of ‘making’ — the theme of the conference.

We spoke to Paul Garbett about the process and development of the project.

How were you briefed for the project?

We initially met with the creative directors of the conference, Sam Crawford, Adam Haddow and Helen Norrie, to discuss the theme — making. They were very passionate about what they wanted to do, which is always great to feed off. They wanted something that challenged the usual architectural aesthetic, something that was more inviting and inclusive. They wanted to explore the role of the architect as a maker of environments and connections that extended the bounds of traditional practice. They also spoke about getting speakers from outside of the usual European models of practice, from countries like Bangladesh, India, South Africa, Colombia, Chile and China, which is something that resonates with us too.

This quote from them sums it up quite well:

“We are interested in the act of making; in the dirtiness, directness and honesty of architecture. Our interest lies in both the machinations of the process, and the beauty, delight and surprise of excellence.”

What research and discarded ideas led to the final outcome?

There was a lot of ‘making’ involved in the design process, trial and error. We got to play around with many different techniques and handcrafts in the process. We had the idea quite early on so the process was more one of refining and distilling that idea rather than exploring others.

What was the core of the ‘making’ idea? And how did you expand on it?

With our clients being architects, it was very important for us to rationalise our design decisions so we developed a system of colour selection and image making which took a lot of the subjectivity and guesswork out of the process.

Making was explored through 4 themes: life, connections, impact and culture. We assigned a colour to each of these themes and then created an alphabetic ‘matrix’ which was used to create imagery when words were input. This added a random (and at times, unfinished-looking) element to the identity, which resonated with the making theme quite well.

In a technical sense, how were the visual elements drawn and developed? 

It was an unusual process: the first iteration of the idea was a foamcore board covered in string and mapping pins which was then translated into a video, and only then refined in notebooks before being digitised in vector format and rolled out.

How do you feel about the final result? What feedback has the client given you?

We feel good about the result. It was certainly a very satisfying design process too. We tracked the Instagram and Twitter accounts during the conference and people seemed to really enjoy the conference and some commented on the graphics and catalogue which is always a nice endorsement.

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